Dedham health officials are blaming young people for a recent rise in the town’s COVID-19 cases.
The increased rate of infections led the state to designate Dedham as “high-risk" for the coronavirus and prompted local officials to postpone students' in-person return to school, according to a joint press release from the Dedham Board of Health and Town Manager Leon Goodwin.
Dedham Board of Health Chairwoman Leanne Jasset said two clusters of positive cases have been linked to two recent gatherings of young people in town, one of which was a party attended by high school students.
“While it is believed that these clusters are the cause of the recent rise in positive cases, the increase means that it is imperative for residents to get tested now so health officials will have the best possible understanding of the current COVID-19 situation in our community," she said in the press release.
It wasn’t immediately clear how many cases were attributed to the youths gathering.
Dedham as of Wednesday had logged a total of 484 cases since the start of the pandemic, including 37 in the last two weeks, according to state DPH data.
The state was sending a mobile testing unit to Dedham that was expected to be operational by the end of the week, and officials are encouraging residents to get tested. Dedham officials are also urging residents to continue to do their part to prevent further transmission of COVID-19 by wearing masks in public, practicing proper hygiene, and avoiding gathering in groups. The press release states that some residents may be contacted by contact tracers, and officials said it’s important that they answer those calls and provide information that can help curb further transmission of the virus.
Dedham school officials said in-person classes scheduled for Sept. 21 will be delayed until further notice.
The recent uptick in cases in Dedham will likely serve as a cautionary tale for other school districts as well.
On Thursday morning Needham Public Schools Superintendent Daniel Gutekanst tweeted out a story about Dedham’s predicament. “Needham wants in person school to start on September 29th," he wrote. "Let’s not have this happen to us!”
Travis Andersen of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.